Posted on September 14 2016
“If you don’t mind my saying…”
“No offense, but…”
“Now, don’t take this the wrong way…”
Can any sentence that begins this way end well? I can’t be the only person lucky enough to have family and friends who are so generous with feedback…can I? Constructive criticism is usually the way these helping helpers describe their conversational grenades, because of course, they’re just trying to help. Don’t I want to know about ‘my mustache’? Don’t I want to know I’m ‘obese and killing myself’? Don’t I want to know that I ‘shouldn’t be spending my money that way and I’m completely irresponsible’? Uh, I don’t, actually. Or, I’m not, not any of those things. Or maybe I am, because who would say any of that right in the face of someone they supposedly love, unless it really, really pained them but they had to share a hard truth?
The helping helper, that’s who. She will never consider keeping her opinions to herself, because she only deals with cold hard facts, and what she has to say must be heard. And she’s brave enough to start off with bracing statements like these, because she knows I don’t want to hear the truth. I’m in denial about everything that’s wrong with me – especially that facial hair! - and I’m so lucky to have her.
And as you gently face palm, and grit your teeth, you remind yourself that this is your sister, your mother, your aunt, and surely she loves you, even though the way she shows this love is the textbook example of how not to show love, to anyone, ever. But what happens when strangers offer you completely unsolicited advice, feedback and just plain sadism in the guise of help? The internet connects us to the world – and some of that world is filled with bullies. Cyberbullying most often targets teens, but anyone can become a target of amoral, insecure a**sholes who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to harass anyone a little bit different. Women, LGBTQ, the overweight, celebrities, feminists – anyone who stands out, speaks out or embraces themselves without fear can become the object of harassment. Just a few recent examples include Leslie Jones, SNL comedienne and Ghostbusters actress, Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast, and even NBA star Steph Curry's three-year-old daughter Riley. Did Leslie Jones learn anything from the hate, porn and racism sent her way on Twitter? She learned that Twitter is an unpoliced wasteland, and she left. Did Gabby Douglas need reminding that the playing of the national anthem was a solemn moment, and she should pay attention? No, because she already was. Little Riley Curry didn’t learn anything, fortunately, because of course she doesn’t have a Twitter account. The tweets were sent to an appalled, grown-up British man with the same name who reported the trolls. In fact, Great Britain leads the world in its legal stance against cyberbullying, with strong laws that allow for prosecution of online harassment, creating fake profiles, revenge posting, and cyberstalking. Hear hear!
And what we reject online, we don’t have to take in real life, either. The next time someone offers ‘helpful’ advice about how you do your hair, how much you weigh, or how you dress, stop her in the middle of her sentence. Because, yes, you are about to take ‘this’ the wrong way! You could also frown with concern, peer at her face, and gasp, “Oh no, is that a mustache on your lip?!?” It’s a conversation-stopper, believe me!